Indian Americans Pitch Narenda Modi to Republican Presidential Hopeful Ted Cruz

Chicago IL: Delegates representing the National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI) joined the DuPage County chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly (RNHA) in hosting a reception for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Monday, May 13, 2013, at Oak Brook Marriott Hotel. The Senator briefly addressed the group of about 50 and thanked the roomful of Indian and Hispanic Republicans, led by Illinois RNHA Chairman Steve Orlando and Dupage County RNHA Chairwoman, Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti, for being so involved before taking time to meet and pose for photos. Present at the reception were State Senators Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady. Cruz then delivered the keynote address at the DuPage Lincoln Day Dinner, sponsored by the DuPage County Republican Central Committee where over 600 Republicans were assembled. Shalabh (Shalli) Kumar, who led the NIAPPI delegation, also addressed the assembly and sought to underline the unique Indian American demographics and the growing importance of their vote.

Presenting himself under the banner of Ronal Reagan as Chairman of Indian Americans for Freedom, Kumar emphasized his organization’s commitment to individual liberty, self-reliance, fiscal discipline, free enterprise, and strong national defense. He insisted on a strategy to convert the one million Indian American voters to the Republican cause over the next decade. For they have the highest median income (surpassing the Jewish community) and level of education (67% have Bachelor’s degree as compared to 28% nationally). With one out of seven, they boast the highest ratio of entrepreneurs: over 500K among them owned businesses employing more than 1.5M workers and producing $200B in products and services. 1.5M are registered out of 2M eligible voters and currently only 750K actually vote, with 70% of their vote going to Democrats. Shalli underlined the need for a full scale national program from the Republican Party to convert at least 500K Indian American voters from the Democratic ranks by 2014, and 1M by 2016. He capped his presentation by projecting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as India’s next Prime Minister, a Reagan-in-waiting, whom Republicans might endorse and emulate to their own benefit, given his wide popularity amidst the US diaspora.

The ambitious son of a Cuban father, who had fled Castro’s communism with just $100 stitched into his underwear, Cruz received a rousing reception as presidential hopeful, after his unexpected grassroots victory at the Nov. 6 general election that has been described “the biggest upset of 2012.” While endorsing Tea Party positions during his keynote address, this outstanding Harvard law graduate and embodiment of the American Dream repeatedly criticized the Mitt Romney campaign for reinforcing stereotypes of the GOP as the party of the rich rather than of opportunity for all, especially the struggling yet hardworking destitute. Instead of billionaire Romney’s “you built that” pat-on-the-back to corporate executives, it would have been preferable, he affirmed, to have told the have-not majority “you (too) can build that!” Introducing the Senator, the DuPage Republican MC had cited instances of how he went out of his way to physically reach out to waitressing staff and other menials.

The choice of Ted Cruz for this keynote address has been widely denounced, his presidential aspirations ridiculed, in the mainstream media and blogosphere, which has carefully listed his record of statements and positions that are way off the chart. The cognitive dissonance between the apparent sympathy for those denied opportunity to rise from the lowest rungs and such “extreme” positions in the name of (unconditional) “liberty” are perhaps attributable to his paternal legacy. His Hispanic father had been jailed and tortured by the Batista regime (supported by the US) and had actually fought for Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution. Most Indian immigrants who have likewise realized the American Dream after arriving on these shores with only a few dollars in their pocket are not refugees fleeing persecution.

Only 35% of the Latino community in Texas voted for Cruz in the “the biggest upset of 2012,” and “Republicans everywhere, but especially in Illinois, have an uphill climb” (Steve Orlando). While many would endorse the NIAPPI characterization of the values, ethos, self-sufficiency, entrepreneurial spirit, and charitableness of Indian Americans, there is perhaps a pressing need for a deeper analysis of what Indian and American democracies respectively stand for and grassroots insights into how the aspirations of Indian Americans may be better aligned to those of Hispanic immigrants and other diasporas and to the American mainstream.